Wales v Northern Ireland – June 25 2016, European Championships
Wales have already lost one ‘Battle of Britain’ at these European Championships, when they were beaten 2-1 in the last minutes of their game against England. However, they are just one more away from reaching an enormous and historic Euro semi-finals.
Standing in their way are the Northern Irish, a team with many players from the English Championship and a goalkeeper without a contract. The Northern Ireland team may not be as memorable as their fans who made a wall of noise in their 1-0 defeat to world champions Germany. However, a strongly disciplined defensive performance coupled with heroics from Michael McGovern, saw to it that the Germans did not rack up a score that would have surely eliminated any chances of Northern Irish progression.
Both Wales and Northern Ireland have progressed largely thanks to their solid defensive performances that kept far more illustrious teams from scoring against them, or at least too many in the case of Northern Ireland.
While Northern Ireland only conceded twice in the three group games, Wales conceded three times. However, at the other end of the pitch the difference between the two is far starker. While Northern Ireland only scored twice, in one match against Ukraine they won 2-0, Wales scored six times.
In Gareth Bale, Wales have one of the best players in the world, but as they demonstrated against Russia, they are far from a one man team. Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey bossed the midfield against Russia, with Wales manager Chris Coleman surprisingly picking Burnley striker Sam Vokes to act as a pivot for his rampaging attacking players.
The last time Wales reached the latter stages of a major international tournament a goal by Pele saw them beaten by Brazil in the 1958 World Cup quarter-finals. There is no Pele on the Northern Ireland team so Wales are expected to make history by making the semi-finals and earning a seat at the top table of European football.